3 Positive Things for 7 Days

Recently on facebook a trend has been going around in which people have written 3 positive things every day for 7 days, and nominate others to do the same. It's been nice to read the small and large things people are experiencing and finding in their days to celebrate, and then last Monday I was nominated to do it!

My first thought was 'oh no, when am I going to have the chance to do that?!'. However, once I got over my cynical side, I thought 'why not, I'll give it a try'. I decided that rather than struggling to get onto facebook each day to write something up, I took a bunch of photos over 7 days of various positive things, and thought I'd post them altogether. So here are 21 positive things from my life over the last 7 days…

So, who do I nominate? Anyone who fancies having some fun for a week 🙂



Personality Tests, Strengthsfinders and All That….

I recently read an article in Wired magazine about 'Echo Nest'. Rather than spending the time telling you about them and the article, here's a link to it! Don't click here until you read my blog though!

When discussing some research that has been conducted regarding how the music genres we individually enjoy can say something about our political preference, I saw the following which I found it fascinating…

I know some people hate things like this. Studies and research that tries to understand what people may be like, and seek to define patterns of thought and behaviour. For example, the Meyers Briggs Personality Profiling, Strengthsfinder Tests, and well as other personality or 'type' studies. Many people put these kinds of things down saying that they don't want to be labelled. I totally agree. I wouldn't want to be labelled in my political stance due to my playlist on my iPod.

However, I do fully see the benefit of these things. The truth is, there are so many people on this planet, and there are patterns of behaviour and traits that we may share with others, that is clear. God has made us uniquely different from every other human on the planet – that I agree with wholeheartedly – and I do see a benefit in helping each other understand how different people interact. Sure, there are a limited amount of Meyers Briggs types, and only 35(ish?!) Strengthsfinder 'talent themes', but as we do these tests, studies, and discussions with one another, it can open up so many learning opportunities, how to work with one another, how to help each other, how we may or may not react according to our patterns of thought and behaviour we share with others.

We don't need to run our lives by these things, but let's at least listen to what they have to say about each other and see what we can learn from them. They don't have to define us, the answers don't need to send us in a certain direction in our lives but they might just help in those meetings or conversations where we disagree or have a problem to resolve.

Want to know a secret opinion I have? A long as you promise not to tell anyone! I would actually hazard a guess and say that many of us could generally figure out the people in our lives who are the 'types' of people who don't like this kind of stuff. Through patterns of their thought and behaviour, I'm sure we could tell that they hate these studies without asking them directly about this kind of thing. Ouch, I don't think that is something they'd want to hear, so don't tell them!

What so you think about these kinds of things? Love Meyers Briggs? Can't stand the Strengthsfinder Test? Have you had great or awful experiences with them? Share your thoughts in the comments below and let's keep the convo going.


Yaya Toure | Small Things | Relating | Leaving

Yesterday over the sports news pages was the story about Yaya Toure, the Manchester City footballer from the Ivory Coast. The news stated that he might be leaving the club because the club showed him a 'lack of respect' on his birthday. Despite giving him a cake, and apparently tweeting about it, that simply wasn't enough for Toure, who said that the club didn't even shake his hand.

In total honesty, at first I found this hilarious. I thought 'what?! – this guy is paid thousands each week to play football and an annual cake, I think they give him enough! Surely missing a handshake isn't that bad!' Maybe you think or thought the same. Since then, a couple of thoughts came into my head…

1. Relationships matter. More than money, you can be paid as much as you like, but here is a classic example of the truth of the importance of human connection and relationship. Whether a millionaire, or somebody with very little, we all need relationships and connections with others. You can't buy loyalty and relationship. I know Manchester City is ultimately the organisation Toure works for, but I bet some reaching out relationally from the clubs officials would nt have gone amiss. In many ways ahead of the money we are paid, we seek human relationship and want to know that others care for me.

2. It's the little things that count. It's clearly the little thing of a handshake and a smile that counts for Yaya. And for us, it's the little things that count. The cup of tea made in the morning, the bringing in of biscuits to the meeting, the little present on a Friday when you come home from work, the taking to the airport, the asking 'how is your family?', the buying of a book because you 'saw it and thought of them'. Small things count.

2. People come and people go. What some people would not even consider as an issue (I struggle to imagine myself leaving my place of work because nobody shook my hand on my birthday!), some see it as a reason to leave. It got me thinking about why people leave organisations, groups, churches, and jobs. And there are so many reasons. What is a reason to leave for one person may be a reason to join for another. When somebody may leave a company for a particular reason, it may not even enter the mind for another. People come, and people go. Something tells me that not getting his hand shook is not the only reason Yaya Toure wants to leave Manchester City, there's bound to be other reasons too. When people want to leave and have made up their mind, there's not much you can do about it, so at this point, let people go and save yourself the worry, fear, anxiety and pain of it all.

What do you make of this? Have Manchester City been harsh and neglecting of Toure, or should he dust himself off and get over it? How important are relationships and the small things?

Talk about your idea

At some point along your journey of seeing something you'd like to do or achieve come a reality, you'll need to talk about it with someone else.

I hate that moment. It's a moment of reality. It's one of those gates you need to get through, and you're not sure if its locked or open-able until you reach it. Because when you start telling someone about it, the doors of questions are opened.

People ask questions. It's annoying isn't it? Particularly if they are interested in what you're doing. In honesty, we often think of questions as the things that come from the 'haters' or 'naysayers'. But more and more I am realising that we need question askers in our lives. It sounds stupid, to say it, but I hate receiving questions, as a bit of my nature responds with an internal shout of “don't you think I'm good enough?! Don't you think I haven't thought about that?! What do a YOU know anyway?!“. I get defensive, when really I need to get over myself and answer them like a real man.

Questions mean details, details that maybe you have thought about but ignored so far, or details that you hadn't considered and mean that here are holes in your idea that need filling. But they are important. If you don't ask questions at the early stages, you'll have to face them later, when it may be too late, as you've put too much money into it, or it's passed the deadline, or the opportunity has left.

Questions now save a lot of time later. So get telling someone about your idea, and do your utmost to not get defensive, but be ready to listen, learn, and get your details hat on.


Your time is Communal.

I read somewhere recently that 'your time is communal“. Fascinating idea.

Whether married, single, dating or whatever, the time you have is communal. It is actually owned by many, it is not your own. We all have people in our lives that are important to us, whether family, friends, work colleagues. And what comes with the territory of this is that they take up time, they demand time of us. This is ok, if we were to not give others our time we'd be missing out on a massive chunk of what life is all about.

So when we are trying to pursue something of our own – an idea, a new business venture, a new hobby that we do alone, a 'side project', our private devotional times with God- it can be really hard to find the time to do it. We find that days, weeks, months, years even can go by without us doing anything because we have not factored in the time to do it, we feel that we simply don't have the time.

in many ways you're right, we don't have the time, because time is communal. However, we can find some time that is not communal. Right now. I'm keen to write blogs when possible. I'd hate to do this when I first get home from work, because I want to spend time with Heather (my wife). But in the morning, nice and early I tend to wake up before she does, and this is a perfect time to write blogs, because she does not feel like I'm cheating her of her time.

When does that time come for you? Saturday mornings? 5am during the week? 11pm during the week? Sunday nights? Find a time that works best for you, and best for the others who own your time, and make your side project/devotional time/hobby/new business happen.


How to approach strangers.

I recently blogged about a photographer called Brandon Stanton. He has a blog called Humans of New York, on which he take photos of people on the streets of New York, and asks them about themselves, and their life. Take a read of that post here.

Today a video popped up on my news feed, a segment from a lecture he gave at a university in Dublin, about how he approaches strangers, the importance of helping people feel at ease and how you can draw the most and best out of people in a loving, caring way. Interesting video, worth 15 minutes if you have it 🙂

At church most weeks I'm approaching strangers who are first-time visitors to our church. Stuff like this video is really helpful in helping me get better at it, maybe it's helpful for you too.

People Are Important

I've just discovered a blog/art project called 'Humans of New York'. Brandon Stanton takes pictures of people in New York and posts them on his blog, sometimes with snippets of conversations he's had with them.

There is something wonderful about this simple idea and website. God loves people. And seeing these humans of all types, shapes, sizes and genres reminds me of Gods intense, unncomparable, neverending, untamed passionate love for His creation. Each one of them. With their stories, their lives, their personalities, their dreams and desires.

When us humans may see eccentricity, or awkwardness, or dare I say it – ugliness – God sees beauty, uniqueness, individual and sees how they are created to be. Occasionally I have these moments when I look at people and catch a glimpse of how God sees them, often when I'm on the train, or in a cafe just watching the world go by. I want those moments to be my lifestyle, not just momentary.

His ways and thoughts are are far higher and greater than my ways and my thoughts, that's for sure.

Take just 5 minutes now to flick through Humans of New York and ask God not for a moment of seeing through His eyes, but ask Him for a shift in your mind to live a lifestyle through His eyes.

People are important. Let's remember that.


Ask Questions

Want people to think you're great? Ask them questions.

It's a duff move to think that if you tell somebody you meet about all the great things yourself, they'll think you're amazing. They won't, they'll think you're a bit talkative at the least, or at worst think you're mega self-centred.

I'm realising more and more that asking questions and finding out about them tends to help to build a friendship than talking. Listening, now that's uber-underrated.

Try it. When you meet someone new, try all you can to ask them questions and listen to them. Let them talk. Try not to speak about yourself so much, but find out about them. You may go away from that conversation knowing tons about them, and they may have heard nothing from you. But, I bet they'd go away from that conversation saying 'that Ben, he's a legend.'

Jesus asked hundreds of questions, and answered no where near as many. If that's not a reason to try it out, well, I don't know what is.


Stop Juggling Everything – Catch, Throw, Drop.

I’ll come back to Relationships stuff another time. Thought I’d post this whilst it’s on my mind. Actually, I might start posting all sorts of bits and pieces, with ‘Relationships’ as a side-thing dipping in and out of. We’ll see.

Anyway, the other day I was at my parents house and saw some juggling balls with words written on them. I took a picture and it got me thinking.Image

We often mention that we are ‘juggling’ things in our life, with the feeling that if we let any of this go or stop juggling then we are failures in life.

I’ve got a lot on my plate at the moment“, or “It feels like I’m not stopping right now” or “I’ve barely got time to breathe” or “I’m here, there, and everywhere” etc. You get the idea.

When I saw these 3 words, it got me thinking about the various things we juggle in our lives. Our workload in our jobs, our family priorities with the children or spouses, we juggle our friendships and other relationships, as well as juggling other ‘duties’ (or things we think are duties!).

The whole concept of ‘juggling’ to me seems unnecessary and a little waste of our energies at times. I realise we often have a variety of comings and goings in our lives, and we need to arrange these accordingly. But often we juggle things that don’t need juggling. Lets remind ourselves that sometimes, we need to catch, drop or throw things… let me explain.

Catch – some things we need to catch, we need to keep hold of. We need to protect. Whether a friendship that needs investing in, whether that means taking our children out individually to invest in that relationship, or giving that friend who you haven’t spoken to in a while a call. Maybe we need to catch the initiative we are involved in at work – spending time  ensuring that is moving forward, that it is succeeding. Decide what needs to be caught, and catch it. Don’t catch other things that aren’t important. Catch the important things.

Throw – some things in our lives we need to throw. If you are leader, maybe you’re finding yourself bombarded by too many people’s issues, struggles and people all wanting their ‘piece’ of you. Remember – you can’t deal with everyone by yourself. Maybe some things need to be passed on or ‘thrown’ to somebody else (not at somebody else!). Don’t become isolated doing it on your own – throw things to others too. Maybe something you have been leading needs to be handed on to somebody else who can take it onto the new level. In church life – we are all called to be involved and play our part. Give someone else a go.

Throwing is also a movement. Its making sure something isn’t stationery. Maybe something needs improving and moving, it needs shaking up, changing, moving. By getting some things moving and shifting, it stirs it up a fresh. What’s stuck in one place in your life and needs throwing to give it some life?

By throwing some responsibility to somebody else and empowering them to lead, it can help them and you at the same time. What needs to be thrown onto somebody else?

Drop – as harsh as it sounds, sometimes dropping isn’t always bad. We often think of drop in our work lives when we ‘drop a ball’ and forget something. I don’t mean purposely doing this. But what I mean is that in some areas of our lives we need to stop doing what we are doing. Maybe there are relationships in our lives that need dropping. Friendships that are limiting you, aimless romantic relationships, working relationships that are edging in the direction of doing something morally wrong. With your exception of your family relationships, you choose your relationships. Some relationships needs ‘catching’ – taking time to develop and nurture, whereas some need dropping. Do it well. Do it carefully, do it in love. But don’t let a negative impacting relationship ruin your progression in your life, whether your relationship with God, your career progression, or simply your emotional stability!

With drop there is also the idea of ‘things’ and tasks in our lives that we need to drop. We can’t do everything. Some things we have to admit and choose not to do them. I love Shauna Niequists ‘Things I don’t do’ concept. A list of stuff I don’t do. Save yourself some serious stress and tiredness but not doing some stuff.

So what do you need to drop? What relationships do you need to drop? As horrible as it sounds, not all dropping is bad, just do it well.

Let’s stop juggling everything.

Catch what needs to be caught.

Throw what needs to be moved and thrown.

Drop the things that need dropping.

Relationships: On Purpose

Many of us spend a lot of money and time studying in order to be purposeful in our behaviour to get a job we like, are good at, and gives us some money to pay the rent and get us some food each month. 

Many of us will be purposeful with the spending of our money, so that when we finish education, we can head to a country far away for a year or so and experience another culture. We’ll not spend much, and save much in order to do this. We are purposeful in that sense.

Many of us are purposeful with our time. We will ensure we are not busy or out at a certain time of the day in order to watch that game of football, or we may be purposeful with holiday time in order that we can take the time off work to get to that trip, or that event.

We are often so purposeful with various areas of our lives. Why not get purposeful about your relationships? Your family relationships, your friendships, your ‘dating’ relationships, your marriages. All relationships deserve purpose. They deserve time, effort, perseverance, money(!). Your relationships deserve your attention.

What is being purposeful to you then? Maybe its something as simple as your personal hygiene (cue the laughs). You want a husband or a wife? Get yourself looking, smelling and appearing great. It’s true that God doesn’t look at the outside, he looks at the heart. It’s also true that we should do the same. Another truth is that we are a fallen and broken people and we don’t tend to only look at the heart, so lets put some effort into our appearance too. A messy, un-kept appearance says to everyone else that you don’t care much about yourself (and therefore, probably don’t care about others either).

Maybe purpose means investing some time making something for your ‘other’, or preparing something for them. A hamper of treats. Heather has just given me 50 daily mini presents, each of which are a small snack for each day. Wow. That’s effort. For Valentines Day I created a framed branches creativity/arty thing (something like this). I’m not arty like that. It took time and effort.

Maybe you can be purposeful by getting the courage and speaking directly to the person involved and taking them out on a date, seeing if you actually like them or not.

Maybe being purposeful is ending the aimless relationship you are in. Ouch.

Be purposeful with your relationships. Whether you are in one or want one. Be Purposeful.